"When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer it was a reality check for me," Wilson tells PEOPLE
Ask Charlie Wilson how he’s doing and he’ll say, “blessed.”
The legendary R&B singer is coming off his highly successful In It to Win It tour, and PEOPLE is sharing the music video for his hit single, “I’m Blessed,” which was inspired by his personal battle with prostate cancer.
“When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer it was a reality check for me,” Wilson, 64, exclusively tells PEOPLE. “It woke me up and made me realize how short life is and how it could be cut anytime. After hearing the news, I changed my lifestyle a lot as far as what I eat and how often I work out.”
Wilson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008, and thanks to treatments and early detection, the disease went into remission. He chronicles his past struggle with cancer, along with drug and alcohol addiction and homelessness, in his 2015 memoir I Am Charlie Wilson.
“When I went into remission I felt rejuvenated and I knew I had been truly blessed,” he shares. “I was ready to get back to my music. I’ve beaten the odds before, and now I’m ‘In It to Win It.’”
Also known as “Uncle Charlie,” the 11-time Grammy nominee and co-founder and former lead singer of the Gap Band gives an inside look at his tour throughout the music video and puts a spotlight on fans as they talk about what they’re “blessed” for in their own lives.
“When you are as blessed as I have been, you want to share those blessings,” he explains. “The idea for the video was to capture one of my biggest blessings, my fans, and be able to share my music and story with them. I wanted to give them the opportunity to share their blessings on camera.”
He continues: “The world is changing daily and people are going through tough times but it’s important to focus on the blessings we are given in life.”
In the video, Wilson is not only joined by fans, but a number of famous friends including T.I. (who’s featured on the single), John Newman, Martin Lawrence and Wiz Khalifa. But there’s one young artist who’s not featured that Wilson is keeping an eye out for.
“A young man who is doing his thing right now is Bruno Mars,” he says. “He makes the type of music that is true to his heart and he’s a great entertainer. He’s bridging the gap between old school and new school. He and I are cut from the same cloth as far as work ethic, talent, creativity and wanting to give it all to his fans when he performs.”
He adds of Mars: “I remember he said to me, ‘Charlie, I just like to perform, give me a stage and I’m going to give it my all. If I have a bunch of lights and production and bells and whistles that’s just a bonus to me, but I’m good either way.'”
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As someone who has a career in R&B music that spans across decades, and recently saw “I’m Blessed” reach No. 1 on the Urban Adult Contemporary charts, Wilson is hopeful for the future of the genre he made his name in.
“The future of R&B is alive and thriving,” he says. “I’d like to think I’m proof of that as I continue to release new music and sell out tours. If your passion is to create and record R&B music, you must be true to the art form. Young artists are putting their own spin on R&B, and I think it’s great to see it continue to evolve and take on new life.”
At the end of the video, Wilson sums up his journey: “It’s a beautiful ride for me. I’m just happy that I got a chance to do it still right now at this stage of my life.”